By Lisa Rowlands

Given varietal protection in 1979, cultivation of Dornfelder began with just over one-hundred hectares. Today however, it is Germany’s second most planted red grape variety after Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) with nearly eight-thousand hectares under vine, mostly in the regions of Pfalz and Rheinhessen. It has also found conditions to suit in parts of German Speaking Switzerland - notably the cantons of Zürich and Schwyz - and whilst numbers here are presently very small, the grape is slowly gaining a reputation for reliability, and is subsequently building its share of the vine.

Dornfelder is a vigorous, resilient vine with the potential for high yields, although many quality-conscious producers restrict this. Its thick-skinned grapes offer excellent resistance to a variety of viticultural diseases and the relative ease with which it can be cultivated and vinified make it a popular choice amongst growers.

Initially considered only as a blending wine to enhance (darken) the pale colour of most German reds, Dornfelder has now begun to see some commercial success as a varietal. Its wines are typically fragrant and full-bodied, with a flavour and complexity enriched by a period of ageing in oak barrels.